David Margil is running for one of two available seats on the Natick School Committee against Firkins Reed and Timothy Kelley. Margil is the current School Committee chairman and has been a member since 2008. For additional information on the candidate, visit DaveMargil.com.
What motivates you to want to serve on the Natick School Committee?
Although I grew up and went through the Natick Public Schools, graduating from Natick High in 1984, I didn’t truly understand how lucky I was to have that experience until adulthood. When I was young I watched as my parents, aunts and uncles all gave their time to community service. Years later, with my own children in the schools, I thought back to what that generation had done for me. I realized that it was their commitment, their sacrifice, and their willingness to do the hard work of volunteering that had given me my opportunity to receive a great public education.
Public education is a promise made and kept from each generation to the next. What our parents did for us, we owe to the generation of children going through our schools now. Someday, they will do the same for their children.
Realizing the world of opportunities that public education opened for me and my classmates, I feel compelled to keep my part in that generational promise.
What experiences do you feel have best prepared you to be a member?
Working as a member of a committee requires more than just a knowledge of the issues, budget, and policy. It also requires a number of other, equally important skills: an open mind, a willingness to listen to alternative points of view, the ability to work well with others even when you disagree, and above all, patience.
My professional background has been excellent preparation for working in that environment. One of the most important experiences in my career was when I joined with three friends (all from Natick High) to start up an Internet company during the 1990s. Working in close quarters, with a limited budget and tight deadlines, required all of those skills. Without them we wouldn’t have been successful. In my day-to-day work now I’m often in a team environment and need to find ways to find agreement among differing points of view.
Over the past three years I’ve used those skills to build strong working relationships with members of the School Committee and other boards in town. One of the achievements of which I am most proud is the recent agreement between the School Committee and the Board of Selectmen to consolidate facilities management. Getting to a solution that was acceptable to both boards required an enormous amount of patience, collaboration, and consensus building.
What are the most important issues to you regarding Natick's schools at this time?
As always, there are many important ongoing issues, including the finalization of next year’s budget, finishing the construction of the new Natick High School, examining options to deal with our growing student population, and working with our unions on new contracts.
I’ve been closely involved in all of these. For example, as School Committee chair I also sit on the High School Building Committee. We work hard to insure that costs are contained and that our specifications are being met. I’m happy to say that we’re currently on target to open on time and under budget. But there are still critical stages left, including the demolition of the old building. Continuing oversight will insure that that the town gets the quality building they overwhelmingly supported.
All of these issues will require focus, patience, and an eye to the future. Long-term thinking over the past few years has served us well. We need to continue that approach to insure that the district is well positioned to deal with the challenges facing us over the next five to ten years.
What do you expect are the greatest challenges Natick's school system will face in the next few years?
The greatest single challenge Natick schools will face in the next few years is our rising enrollment. The increase in students will put pressure on every level of the system, from the elementary grades through the high school. This year we have several Kindergarten classes at or above 25 students and some classes in the middle schools are at or above 30 students. Creating a short and long term plan to address rising enrollment is a priority that the School Committee has already started to discuss, and will be working on more intensively over the next few months. Any solution will likely require investment, which means that we will need to work proactively and collaboratively with the Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee; something that has been a priority of mine over the last three years.
Another related challenge is managing our budget to preserve our most fundamental resource: teachers. The Natick schools have invested heavily in technology over the last several years, but no computer can or should replace a teacher. Finding ways to save money within the system so that more of our budget can go toward teachers is only going to become more important in the next few years. We’ve already made great progress. Over the past year we’ve added solar panels to several schools and entered into long-term power purchase agreements that will help lower our energy costs for the next 20 years. The recently finalized agreement with the Board of Selectmen to consolidate facilities management should save money on contracted trade services. And we’ve been diligent about finding the most cost effective service providers. Last year we put our contract for Special Education Transportation out to competitive bid and managed to save close to $200,000 as a result. Savings from all of those initiatives will allow us to put more teachers in the classrooms and will better serve our students.
Who or what in your past most inspired your interest in education?
Many people have inspired me. In high school my International Relations teacher, Ed Culhane, saw that I was struggling on essay tests and took me aside. Working one on one he taught me how to structure my thinking to better express what I knew. Those lessons have stayed with me and I use them frequently at work and in my personal life. That experience really illuminated for me what a difference one good teacher can make in someone’s life.
When I was younger my mother went to night school to learn new skills and get jobs operating computer systems that hadn’t existed when she was in school. My aunt was on School Committee. My friends were smart and it was a challenge for me to keep up academically. I grew up around people who valued learning and education, and it got to be part of who I am today. All the students in Natick’s schools should grow up with that same love of learning. Education opens so many doors in life, and we owe it to each succeeding generation to provide those opportunities. It’s the right thing to do, but it’s also the smart thing to do. When we invest in education, we’re investing in the future of our town, our state, and our country.